What are your names?
We’re Anna Maria Acosta (but “Anna” is fine) and Eva Friedman.
Tell us the story behind the name ‘Staircase Spirits’.
A: I came up with the name years ago, before I started my first band back in college – it came to me when I came across a list of phrases that didn’t have direct English translations. One of them was “L’esprit de l’escalier”, which is a French phrase that that loosely translates to the spirit of the stairwell, or staircase wit. It refers to the moment where you think of the perfect response, but it’s too late to use it. That’s kind of the ethos of my lyrics, and so I turned it into the rough translation of “Staircase Spirits”. My old band didn’t like it – thank goodness. It’s much more fitting for this project and I’m filing that one under “everything happens for a reason”.
What is your genre of music?
A: We’re pop-rock. We draw from a lot of different places, so rather than try to invent a new subgenre for ourselves or try to include everything we love we decided to just keep it simple and call it what it is – (hopefully) catchy songs with relatable subject matter.
Give us a little bio about you as a duo and individuals.
A: I grew up bouncing between the SF Bay Area (Oakland, specifically) and Los Angeles (Inglewood, specifically), and I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old. I relocated permanently to Los Angeles when I was 19, made some colossal mistakes, learned a whole lot, established myself as a writer and a creative and last year, I started Staircase Spirits when I met Eva, who is for all intents and purposes who I consider my musical soulmate.
As a duo, we met when I started writing OpEds for the now defunct AbsolutePunk.net (now Chorus.FM), a site which she frequented as a user. My pieces focused on social justice issues, and I don’t want to speak for her but that must’ve resonated on some level because she reached out to me on Twitter to let me know that she was interested if I needed a drummer. As it turned out, I did need a drummer. She sent me some videos of her playing, and the rest, as they say, is history.
E: Yup, Anna’s correct. After reading Anna’s thoughts on women in music, I felt strongly that she had important things to say and I wanted to be a part of it. As a drummer, I’m never telling my own stories. It was important to me that whoever I linked up with longterm was telling a story (or stories) that I felt strongly about making sure people heard. I definitely feel we’re musical soulmates as well. I think we’ve cultivated a very special musical rapport together over the last year or so.
As an individual, I grew up on the east coast in New Jersey. I started drumming when I was 10 and was involved in anything music related I could get my hands on. School bands, honor bands, local ensembles, etc. I knew that I’d eventually have to relocate to give myself a real shot at a career so about 3 years ago I moved to Los Angeles.
Describe each other in two words.
A (about Eva): Selfless. Virtuoso.
E (about Anna): Stalwart. Courageous.
Are you signed?
A: No, we are not – we’re completely DIY at the moment.
You work with Nü Echo Media, how did that come about?
A: We learned with the last EP cycle (for our last effort, War Stories) that trying to publicise our own stuff was one too many pieces of straw on the proverbial camel’s back. We really believe in the music, so Eva and I talked about it and decided the investment was well worth getting a team involved in helping us push the music out. I put out some feelings, and Cait from Nü Echo responded – and here we are!
Tell us more about your track “California Winter”.
A: “California Winter” is the love song that isn’t about the words “I love you” – it’s about appreciation. There’s a bittersweet element to it, because I wrote the lyrics when I was in the middle of my first real relationship after the abusive one detailed in the earlier EPs, and I saw the writing on the wall that it wasn’t going to last, and that I was ultimately going to have to walk away from it. So I wanted to honor what we had by capturing how I felt about her in that moment.
What was the writing process like?
A: Our writing process tends to start the same way with each song – I sit down in a room with Rob and Eva and play what I’ve got of each track for them with just myself and my acoustic. Then, we bounce ideas off of each other. If we get stuck, we let that song simmer and move on.
E: One of our big talking points when writing is the idea of tension and release. Where should the tension be coming from in a song and when should it release if at all? Originally, we thought “California Winter” might end up as a ballad but ultimately we pushed the tempo up and gave it more of a straightforward rock feel to help emulate the frustration that comes with the feeling of being happy with someone but knowing there’s an expiration date.
What was the recording process like?
A: Due to work schedules, I missed most of the instrumental tracking – but what our studio team (Rob Kemerson, our studio guitarist/bassist, Jonas Vece, our producer, and Eva) managed to do in the two days before I got there was phenomenal. And the vocals were honestly the easiest they’ve ever been. Whatever chemistry we had going in that room just worked.
E: There was a really incredible chemistry all week working on all of the songs. Everything was coming together really nicely and it felt like we couldn’t stop the ideas from coming. And then Anna came in and blew us all away. It felt like there was nothing she couldn’t sing that weekend. While she was tracking vocals, I looked at Jonas and said I felt like “California Winter” had to be the single. I didn’t want to say anything to Anna until she was finished, but as we were listening to playback she said the exact same thing to me.
You will also be releasing your new EP, what can you tell us about that?
A: Love Stories is the conclusion to the Stories trilogy – 15 songs about 2 years of my life. LS is about healing, softness, renewal – the light after the darkness, the second chances you can find in the wreckage after a storm. It’s my favorite thing we’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
Describe each track in two words.
A: California Winter – wistful, longing; Lullaby – melancholy, reserved; Zach’s Song – introspective, honest; Skyline – nostalgic, intense; That Night III – Hopeful, energetic.
Who did you show the EP to first once completed?
A: Honestly? My mother.
E: I was at a family gathering when we got the final masters so my parents, sister, and two of my cousins all snuck away into one of our hotel rooms to listen.
Will you be touring this year?
A: Assuming all goes to plan, we’ll be playing some shows but folks can expect to see us
actually on the road as soon as humanly possible next year.
If so where will you be heading?
A: That is firmly to be determined!
What made you go into music?
A: I tried to walk away from it after the implosion of my last project, and the irony is that doing so made me write more than I had in years. Quitting just exacerbated my mental health issues – so I listened to what the universe was telling me and picked my guitar back up.
E: I’ve always gravitated towards music. I knew as a kid that even if it was on the business side I just wanted to be involved with music for the rest of my life.
Do you play any instruments?
A: I play acoustic guitar and I sing, of course – and I’m working on some other things for our live show.
Who are your influences?
A: I could do this all day but I’m gonna go with the biggest ones: I owe an unpayable debt to the following artists for the amount of guidance, motivation and inspiration they’ve inadvertently given me since I was 4 years old: The Beatles, Backstreet Boys, Selena (Quintanilla), Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy, Automatic Loveletter, Go Radio, and Destiny’s Child.
E: One of my earliest memories of music is Fleetwood Mac, so from a general scale definitely them and their career trajectory. Specific to drumming, Tony Thaxton, Bryan Devendorf, Matt Frazier, Tim Arnold, and Jeff Porcaro have all had huge influences on my playing and the way I view my role as a drummer.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
A: I write about things that happen to me, that’s where the bulk of my inspiration comes from. Another avenue that happens less often but frequently enough to mention is sometimes I’ll hear a new song that’s so damn good it makes me want to write another one. Just puts me in that creative space. When that happens, I pick up the guitar.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
A: A younger me would’ve had an answer for that. She would’ve been very, very wrong. So I’ll just say this: I hope that whatever I’m doing in 5 years, it matters.
E: I’m kind of lucky that I know what I’m doing on a daily basis, so thinking about 5 years ahead seems daunting. Hopefully enjoying whatever I’m doing.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
A: I’m a publicist and a writer, for the most part.
E: Working the occasional odd job, but my days are luckily mostly music.
Where would your dream venue to play in your hometown?
A: This is 100% a nostalgia thing but I’m gonna go with the Warfield in San Francisco. I spent more sweaty teenage evenings in that pit than I can count, so that would be a real “coming home” experience. In LA, I suppose it would be the Greek Theatre because it’s just gorgeous.
E: The Stone Pony in Asbury Park. The venue has a lot of great history and I’ve seen some really special shows there myself so it’d be incredible to get a chance to be on that stage. There also aren’t a lot of venues in NJ. More often than not I was going into NYC or Philadelphia for shows so it would be nice to do a true homecoming.
If you could collaborate with one UK Artists or Band who would it be?
A: This is an answer I wouldn’t have seen coming before he released his new record but honestly? Harry Styles. I think the song resulting from that collaboration would be amazing and I hope I get to hear it someday. Also, his wardrobe is amazing and I’m suspicious that we’re similar sizes.
E: Part of me wants to be more current, but my gut is telling me to be my truest self and say any Spice Girl. They produced such a great moment in pop culture and had a big impact on my taste in music both growing up and now.
If you could collaborate with one US Artists or Band who would it be?
A: Currently… I would love to work with Sainte (aka Tay Jardine, formerly of We Are the In Crowd). She put out one of the most honest, compelling pop records of the year so far and I can’t wait to see where her career goes, because it deserves big things. The other one (and yeah, I’m breaking the rules by listing two) is Kesha. I don’t have the words to say what an honor it has been to be on the planet at the same time as her, and we write about similar things – I would just LOVE to see what happened if that collaboration became possible. And I just want to say I’m only not adding The Maine to this list because that would be 3 artists, which would be breaking the rules twice over.
E: I’m pushing hard for an eventual AJ McLean appearance on a Staircase Spirits song. Besides being massive Backstreet Boys fans, I’d just really love to hear his voice with Anna’s. That’s definitely the top entry in my Staircase Spirits bucket list.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more into the music scene?
A: I could answer this several ways; I first wanted to be in a band when I was 4 years old and my mom put on A Hard Day’s Night (the film) for me to watch. So I could say that. I could also say it was when I heard “My Heart Will Go On” and briefly wanted to be Celine Dion. I could also say it was when “Misery Business” dropped and I saw a girl being in a pop punk band for the first time in *my* existence – even if she wasn’t Latina and didn’t have the same barriers I might, she was still a girl. That was the first time it even occurred to me that girls could do that, thanks to Warped Tour’s homogenous boys club vibe in the mid-2000’s.
E: This is tough. When I first started learning drums, I had no interest in drum set. I wanted to just explore classical percussion and marching band. Then my band teachers pushed me and convinced me to start working on drum set so I could audition for jazz band. The first time I really remember being excited by getting behind a drum set was seeing the music video for “My Friends Over You” by New Found Glory on MTV one morning before going to school. It felt like a lightbulb going off.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
A: “Suit up and show up.” When I went to stay with my mom after exiting my abusive relationship, I spent a good 6 months just wallowing in self pity and disappearing into a pit of despair – a lot of which had to do with my then-undiagnosed PTSD, granted, but a lot was self-inflicted. She would come into my room every morning and tell me to suit up and show up. It was the most infuriating thing I’d ever heard at the time. My usual response – “What does that even MEAN, Mom? Suit up how? Show up where?” But eventually, I started getting back out into my own life, engaging with the world around me and being open to opportunities. And just like that, opportunities started to present themselves – but they never would’ve if I hadn’t gotten up and gone into the world that day. Thanks Mom.
E: I’ve answered this three different ways before landing on working hard. All of the important adults in my life growing up always instilled in me the importance of a strong work ethic and the idea that hard work pays off. No one does the work for you. Whether it be a career, school, personal life, whatever. Everything takes time and effort and I’m really appreciative that I had so many people getting that sentiment into my head.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
A: Be honest. People can tell when your art isn’t telling your truth. There’s certainly a market for dishonest art – but the other kind is what’s going to really make you special in an oversaturated world.
E: As a drummer specifically, don’t settle for one style. Listen to everything. Your personal style is an accumulation of everyone you’ve learned from and everyone you’ve listened to. The more diversity in your listening habits, the more unique blends of ideas float around in your head. Also, work on your time. No one’s going to play with you if you can’t be steady.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
A: “The only way out is through.” It ties into a belief I have, which isn’t to say that everything happens for a reason – sometimes life can be incredibly cruel and I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to imply that suffering is necessary, or was fated, or somehow even deserved. Instead, I think of it this way: no matter what happens, if you stick it out you can find a reason. You can find that silver lining. You can find a light, what comes next. The only way to get to that point, to see the “why”, is by surviving and sticking around.
E: “Keep calm and carry on.” For me, it’s not so much about not losing temper or getting stressed out as much as it is to take a moment when you need to. Stop, collect yourself, let yourself feel and process whatever you need to, and then keep going.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
A: The words. Stay hydrated. Don’t overthink it. Stay for the other bands. Be good to the venue staff.
E: Sticks. Staying hydrated. Being polite to venue staff/sound person/anyone coming to see the gig (whether they’re seeing your band or not). To pee before getting on stage. Earplugs.
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?